We Moved to Denver

NYC will always be the number one city in our hearts, but when the boy came back from Bhutan, we decided it was time to try a new adventure. And so, we moved… to Denver.

Why not, right?

We wanted somewhere with (easier) access to the great outdoors. While living in NYC, boyfrand and I spent most weekends with good weather leaving the city and driving the two hours north to go climbing in the Gunks. So, if most of our free time was spent leaving the city, why pay the millions of dollars in rent to live there? In Denver, we still get a tiny bit of the vibe of a city with the beautiful Rocky Mountains right on our doorstep. There are bouldering spots a scant 25 minute drive from our apartment — much closer than the two hours by car and hour by train to get to the Gunks. For long weekends and mini-vacations, we’re just about 5 ½ hours from Moab, 7 hours from Joe’s Valley, and 10 from Hueco.

We’re both from the east coast, and we’ve never lived anywhere “out west” before. It’s great to have (more) convenient access to beautiful US places we (or he or I) have never been before — Yellowstone! Badlands! It’s my dream to spend two weeks or so going on an Americana national parks road trip (you know, while we still have national parks to go to).

Another perk about Denver is that, although it’s considered an expensive city, it’s laughably cheap compared to New York. We were able to get a one-bedroom apartment just for the two of us that doesn’t leave us broke at the end of every month — something that, as a nearly 30-year-old, I appreciate, and something that in NYC would have been prohibitively expensive unless we both switched out of our careers in teaching and non-profit and went into the escort business.

Anyway, it’s been about a month, and we have an apartment and jobs. I had to buy a car (an expense you don’t need to worry about in NYC), but at least I don’t have to ride the subway anymore. We’ve been on two bouldering trips and a hiking trip — so far, so good! We both definitely miss the thrill of living in New York — particularly the world class museums and food from every corner of the world available at literally any time of night — but we’re excited to try something new.


First Time Sport Climbing at Rumney

Over Labor Day weekend, I had the privilege of taking a trip to Rumney, NH to try sport climbing outdoors for the first time.

I say privilege because I don’t know shit about sport climbing.  Zero.  Zilch.  Nada.  My two very gracious friends invited me to come along, and even after I explained — repeatedly — that I would have no idea what I was doing, they said “Come anyway!  It’s the best place to learn!”

So basically my friends are the sweetest people in the world.  But I digress.

Both of my friends are strong leaders and have been climbing for a while (one even used to work at a gym and taught belay classes), so they were the ideal people to go with.  They would lead a climb, set up a top-rope so I could try it, then another would either lead or top-rope and clean behind me.

Not only was it my first sport climbing trip, it was also my first three-day climbing trip, so one of the biggest challenge was just having enough energy to finish everything.  The third day was only a half day because we had to drive back down to NYC, but by then my skin and whole body were both basically done.  


Steph leading Dolt 5.10a

I’m primarily a boulderer, so I’m used to being able to repeatedly throw myself at a problem.  Things don’t count unless you do them all at one time, and even then you get pumped so fast you better just keep moving, because there’s no quitsies.  As such, sport climbing was a very refreshing mental game-changer for me.  In order to have enough endurance to finish the route, you have to take breaks; sometimes you can just prop your feet, lean against the rock, and take a breather for a minute or two.  If you need to take at the top of a problem so you can figure out how to move through it, you can, because your buddy is right there willing to hold you.  This is great for practicing tricky moves.


Steph (left) on Drilling for Dollars 5.8

One thing I also noticed when top-roping was because I felt so secure with the rope, I was accomplishing things I wouldn’t have thought myself capable of.  Drilling for Dollars has a move that’s a far, high left heel, that you have to pull yourself up and over.  One person on Mountain Project compared it to stepping out of a six story window and trusting that you wouldn’t fall.  I saw others struggle with the move from the ground, but using their beta I was able to complete it on my first try.  It was a move that, on a boulder problem, I may not have tried, because I would have been so afraid of falling.  

Moral of the story:  I’m a stronger climber than I give myself credit for.

So while I probably won’t get the chance to do it outside again any time soon, I think sport climbing might be my new hobby.  Next on the to-do list:  acquire my own harness, take a belay test.

Route List, all top-roped, no lead:

Routes I flashed:

Things You Should Have Learned in Kindergarten 5.6

The Nuthatch 5.7

Fat Man 5.7

Drilling for Dollars 5.8

Squeeze My Lemon 5.8

Dung Beetle 5.9

Routes I finished but had to take once or twice:

Toxic Gumbo 5.8

Junco 5.8+ (ps I hate slab)

Dolt 5.10a (had to take about five times but I got there eventually)

Routes I fell off of/couldn’t finish:

Lonesome Dove 5.10a

Underdog 5.10a

My favorite routes were Drilling for Dollars and Toxic Gumbo, and the one I’m most proud of finishing is Dolt, mostly because it was ridiculously high and intimidating.



Daaaaaay by daaaaay

(Just kidding.)

We went up to the Gunks again on Saturday (shout out to the home crag). I only sent three problems (no new, all re-sends):

– Blasted Rock V1
– Unnamed Boulder Problem V1
– Black Boulder Crack V0

But I got further on three of my projects:

Baby Hole V3 – I have successfully reached up to shove my fingers in the actual baby hole and hold on; now I have to figure out how to get my left hand up and over to the dang top (and then the terrifying top out, of course).

The Lorax V4 – I just started consistently being able to get the weird left hand and come out from the big holds underneath. I am now falling when I have to get my right hand up to the lip. It’s a little scary, though, because my right foot keeps getting stuck in the bottom if I fall, and since legs aren’t super long, my ankle gets caught. No breaks, no sprains, but it definitely made me nervous.

Boulder of the Gods – 2/3 to 3/4 of the way up before getting too scared and coming back down. Even though the climb isn’t technically difficult (V0-?), it’s a highball, which makes me terrified. Not only is it a highball, it’s a highball with less than ideal moves at the top and a tree to fall back into. But my goal is to send an easy highball and build more confidence in climbing higher.

I had a much better attitude going up this trip than on previous trips because I was thinking about things on a move by move basis, rather than a send-by-send basis. Bouldering is hard, and if I only focus on whether or not I complete a whole problem I get frustrated, because obviously it’s super hard to send whole problems. However, if I consider it on a move by move basis, it definitely was a day of progress. So I just need to concentrate on moves instead of sends, and I’ll be a happier climber.

Review: prAna Flannel-Lined Boyfriend Pant

I’m not much of a “gear,” person.  I don’t have to have the best of everything; my bouldering outfits usually consist of whatever I can pile on top of myself to keep from freezing if it’s too cold outside.  My gym wear usually consists of old t-shirts and leggings under athletic shorts.  However, I agreed to go out bouldering with the gang on a thirty-four degree day; preparations were necessary.  I set off to REI to find something that would prevent me from dying of exposure.

What I found was prAna’s flannel-lined boyfriend pant.  The sizing surprised me — not only was I able to fit into a size zero, but even with a pair of leggings underneath it, they were still a little big.  I would not recommend these for any of you chicas that fit comfortably in something like a Forever 21 size 0 — you’d probably be swimming in them.  I’m really glad I was able to try them on, because I probably would have ordered a “2” online and then been super bummed when they fell off my butt into a flood of fabric on the floor.  They’re also a bit long, so be prepared to roll the cuffs.

These are a lot more flexible than they look.  They’re a cotton-poly-spandex blend, so there’s a bit of stretch to them, and not once during our session did I feel like they impaired my movement.  They’re lined with super-soft flannel, so it feels like you’re slipping on a pair of pajama pants.  Paired with my leggings, I couldn’t even feel how cold the rock was.  And as for what makes up the most of bouldering time — standing around — these pants definitely made it more comfortable.  

Original retail price was $100, but I got them on sale for $70.  These are easily the most expensive pants I’ve ever bought, especially given the fact that I bought them for what essentially amounts to rolling around in the dirt.  If they hadn’t been on sale, there was no way in hell they would be coming home with me.  Now, I realize the high price actually covers a lot of things, most importantly the use of non-sweatshop labor and sustainable production techniques, etc., which is why I was willing to pay so much in the first place.  However, I was definitely nervous about taking such an expensive gamble on a brand that I had no experience with.  Luckily, they’re great!  A+, highly recommend.  

The Four Point Day

The first time I went climbing outdoors was April of last year.  After three months of going to the gym regularly, I was sending V1s and V2s.  My boyfriend invited me to go climbing outdoors with him and some buddies up in The Gunks, and I, hungry for my first taste of outdoor climbing on real boulders, readily accepted.

My goals for the day were, in my naïve opinion, reasonable — the low goal was to send a V1.  The medium goal was getting three points.  And the ultra-high goal was to have a five point day.  Looking back on this now, these were definitely some steep expectations. I clearly had no idea what to expect.  As it was, I was barely able to start any problems, much less finish them.

Since that trip, I’d gone back up with the gang numerous times, and despite my many attempts, still had yet to accomplish my Three Point Day.

New York’s random warm streak and minimal snow has lingered all season, and Saturday’s conditions were fine for bouldering.  My expectations for this trip were low — I merely wanted to hang out with my friends, maybe re-send a problem or two, and try not to die of exposure in the cold temps.

We started, as has been the habit of recent trips, at Boxcar Boulder. I re-sent Unnamed Boulder Problem #3 (V1), but for some reason couldn’t get back on top of Blasted Rock (V1). We expected the rock to feel a lot stickier on account of the cool weather (temps in the 30s), but I just couldn’t stay on the top right crimp. Alas! My ego was a little wounded, but I didn’t dwell on it long, because we had new things to try.

We walked all the way down to the big curve in the Carriage Road to try some things we hadn’t been on before. Boyfriend and the strong kids wanted to take a crack at The Art of Nothing (V8), while myself and some others wanted a go at Even Chubby (V1) and the V3 (whose name, if it has one, I can’t remember) next to it.

Even Chubby isn’t a particularly difficult V1, although the end has a reachy throw that is definitely out of my comfort zone (however, videos I’ve seen on YouTube show a right-hand that was not confirmed as being on, and a top-out further out right than we thought – video vs. actual problem yet to be confirmed). Pair that with a rocky bottom, and it was a little scary to do. However, 2016 is the Year of Trying Harder, so when I reached the point where I usually would have looked at the distance to the throw and said “Fuck that,” I actually took a chance and made a push for it. Imagine my surprise when I felt my hand wrap around the lip. Unfortunately, I fell off immediately afterward, but it felt good to have gone for something I normally wouldn’t have and make some progress toward it (and not kill myself in the process).

By this time it was already getting late, and sundown was a mere hour or so away. We had a couple Gunks newcomers with us, so we headed back down the Carriage Road to try out some classics. A couple people took some burns on Gill Pinch and Gill Egg, while A and I worked on Clune Crank. My previous attempts at Clune Crank were not very fruitful. I usually chickened out right before the last move, on account of the (surprise!) throwy finish. I took a couple of burns and, in the spirit of Trying Harder 2016, made a throw for the lip. And I made it! Not only did I make the throw, I stuck on it, and managed my first top-out in a feeling of something other than complete panic. Two points!

At that point we were all pretty much done. “Too bad about the three point day,” was a statement made. And then M got a strange gleam in his eye. “Lazy Mayzie,” he said.

Lazy Mayzie is a very juggy V2 near the Welcome Boulder. From our guesses, it’s a V2 because of the high chance that you’ll dab your back on the boulder directly behind it. Which is exactly what I’ve done every other time I’ve climbed it. I pointed this out to M, and he merely said “So? I’m taller than you, and I can do it, so you can definitely do it.” Boyfriend said “So just don’t dab your back.” And the rest of our motley crew, kind and encouraging and wonderful as they are, were willing to wait for five minutes while I reached for my dream of the ***Three Point Day***.

It was cold, and I was tired. I had one burn in me. I slipped on my shoes, thankful that I had copied M and shoved handwarmers in the toes of them as we walked. I chalked up and pulled on. And by keeping my hips up and my body close to the boulder, I hurled myself up it, without dabbing my back.

And I got it. Not only did I have a Three Point Day, I got FOUR.

M was on top of the boulder while I got there, with a big grin on his face. I waved my arms around in my excitement at the crew below and almost knocked M off the top of the boulder, but thankfully didn’t, which is good because that would have been a total dick move.

As we left the crag, I was exhausted but also ridiculously pleased, proud, and content. To be honest, I had discounted the possibility of being able to have my Three Point Day this season. And I couldn’t have done it alone – I owe most of my confidence, my strength, and my small-but-growing desire to try risky moves entirely to my friends. They provide me with endless support, encouragement, and beta, and they’ve always had my back, whether spotting me on relatively easy problems or talking me through panicky top-outs when my body is already 75% over the lip. Boyfriend, M, A, and the whole gosh-darn MgCO3 crew, this Day’s for you!

End-Of-Season Outdoor Bouldering

It’s officially November, and even though NY has had a weird warm streak this fall, it’s officially time for me to bow-out of outdoor bouldering. I salute all you dedicated crag monkeys who will be out there on the rocks in the freezing cold; but unless you stop by the gym some time, I’ll see you next year.

Last month, Boyfriend and I were lucky enough to get invited to go bouldering at the Powerlinez, in Ramapo, NY. From my understanding, the Powerlinez is a fairly new area – according to Mountain Project, it first “officially” opened for climbing in May 2013 (although people were climbing there before then, albeit without the best wishes of the land owners). We drove up, and after a brief stop at The Gravity Vault climbing to sign the waiver, we were ready for some sweet new bouldering.

The area itself is lovely. We parked in a gravel pull-out on the side of a road and did short hike up the hill on a service access road to get to the actual boulders. As per the name, large power line towers crossed the mountain near the road. The leaves were changing, and the colors were incredible – yellow green, bright yellow, and a few trees already hitting deep fire red. It was pretty cold – low 40s, I believe – so perfect for bouldering (unless you’re like me, and hate the cold, and would have appreciated temps in the low to mid 60s).

The really fun thing about bouldering in the Powerlinez is, for the most part, we had no idea what we were doing. A few members of our group purchased the digital guide, but mostly we just hopped on things that looked cool. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the names of anything we were on, but everything felt cool, ha ha. We warmed up in an area close to the entry that had a handful of 0-2s and a really neat long traverse that I managed to do most of. Boyfriend sent The UnderKing and some unnamed speculated 4s – 7s, and I managed to schlep my way up a handful of zeros. They all had pretty intense top-outs full of leaves and thorny vines, which didn’t feel great when they sank into your face and you had to heave yourself into them to finish the problem. Nature!

We wrapped up the day at Honk If You’re Burly and Diamond Traverse. A few of our band managed to send Diamond, but Honk If You’re Burlystill eluded many (let me note that at this point I was just freezing my ass off and basically just talking to the dogs – but great job on those climbs, friends!). My favorite part about bouldering here was not being aware of the grades – I just hopped on stuff that looked cool without being intimidated by numbers.

On Halloween our group went back up to The Gunks (aka the Home Crag) to scare ourselves with some spooky falls. We started down at Boxcar, warming up on the easy climbs and challenging ourselves with the harder ones. Boyfriend worked Boxcar Arete (V8), and all his hard work paid off, as he finally sent it! We all worked Boxcar Traverse, and as always as soon as the feet ran out, so did our ability to climb it. I re-sent Blasted Rock (V1) and finally sent Unnamed Boulder Problem #3 (V1), with the most ridiculous beached whale body smear top-out in the history of bouldering (BUT I MADE IT, DAMN IT!). After falling off the top-out on our last visit, I was determined to finish the damn thing no matter how ridiculous I looked. After sending those, a few of the gang and myself tried a few cracks a Baby Hold (V3). We got the first part on lock-down, but out of us less-burly climbers, only P was able to bag a send. Next time!

We continued down the Carriage Road, next stop: Andrew’s Boulder. Boyfriend re-sent The Buddha while our new crag buddies got the beginning beta on lock. Several of us tried Andrew’s Boulder Problem, with E valiantly struggling to get around the lip and succeeded, hurrah! I’m still working on the beginning swing-and-grab, and will definitely need to work on this project many many many more times before making any substantial progress. Goals.


Next up: Lynn Hill Traverse (V8), Goldstone Traverse (V4), and Black Boulder Crack (V0). I resent Black Boulder Crack while the others worked Goldstone and Lynn Hill. Lynn Hill has been Boyfriend’s long-standing nemesis, but all the stars seemed to align for him and he managed to finally send it, making for two V8s in one day! Others in our gang worked the opening moves, while A and P took some tries at Goldstone Traverse (which I declined to work this time, not in the mood to grab the razor blade on the third move).

After a brief pit-stop at Suzy A where us shorter-statured kids fell off the early moves, we headed up front The gang put in some hard work on the Lorax (V4), re-sent Lazy Mazy (V2), and I fell off the top-out on Stained Boulder (V1) AGAIN. Argh. I’ll get you yet, Stained Boulder!

All in all, a good trip, finished with some amazingly decadent food at New Paltz Indian Restaurant. We were also lucky enough to catch the beginning of the New Paltz Halloween Parade and see all the kids out in their costumes (WHICH WAS ADORABLE). But now, as we glide through November and into much more freezing weather, I will be staying in the gym, swathed in sweatshirts as I try to build some strength for next year (and the domination of Stained Boulder).

Have a happy winter, all you hardcore outdoor boulderers, and don’t forget your hand warmers!

October Gunks Camping and Climbing

Boyfriend and I were able to escape the city this weekend and do some much-needed camping and climbing up near New Paltz, NY this weekend. The Gunks is our home crag, although we usually only make it up here when we can wrangle together a crew of seven (enough to rent a ZipCar) and then only for the day.  However, getting up and staying without a car is super easy.  We took a 7:00 am bus out of Port Authority Saturday morning, and after a surprisingly fast ride (only about an hour and a half) we were in New Paltz. After grabbing a coffee and a cab (New Paltz Taxi’s offices are conveniently located at the bus station), we headed to the Samuel F. Pryor III Campground.

Not exactly what I wanted to see, but it made the midnight walk to the bathroom more exciting.

Not exactly what I wanted to see, but it made the midnight walk to the bathroom more exciting.

The ride to the campground cost $12.  Our site was ready when we checked in because we had actually booked for the previous night as well, but rain in New Paltz Friday night made us delay our departure.  Upon check-in, the campground guy told us there have been several bears active in the area fattening up for winter.  Our site, originally a car site, was changed to a walk-in because the walk-ins are the only ones with bear boxes.  (Tip: when making a reservation, be sure to call and let them know if you will require a bear box.)

Our campsite was lovely.  It was a walk-in situated on a lane with four others, but far enough away not to hear everyone else rolling around in the middle of the night.  The facilities in the rest of camp were great — bathrooms, cooking pavilion with an outlet, showers expensive enough to be used when only absolutely necessary — and the only downside was that, instead of having a campfire at your site, there was just one central shared fire pit (although I understand not wanting to burn the woods down).  At $24 a night for AAC/Mohonk Preserve members, and $38 for normies, it’s  a bit more expensive than the average dirtbagger might want to pay, but suited us for our short trip.

Campsite situated on the top of a hill. Lots of trees and also lots of falling acorns.

Campsite situated on the top of a hill. Lots of trees and also lots of falling acorns.

After getting our tent up, it was time to hit the crag!  For those of us without a vehicle, there’s a trail leading directly up to the stairmaster across the street from the campground.  After about a twenty minute hike, we hit the entrance pay table and the stairmaster, and after making our way up that (and realizing that I need to mix some cardio in with my strength training), we were on the carriage road.

Amazing leaves, amazing sun.

Amazing leaves, amazing sun.

It was an amazing day with perfect weather for bouldering, so imagine our surprise to find that the carriage road was almost completely empty.  We started our day down at the Boxcar and Blasted Rock.  Boyfriend warmed up on Blasted Rock V1 and few of the smaller climbs on the Boxcar boulder, while I made my attempts at Blasted Rock and Unnamed BP #3 (a V1 on the Boxcar).  We both took a few burns at Boxcar Traverse.

The rest of the day was spent trying and re-trying various projects.  I worked Goldstone Traverse (a long-term goal), while Boyfriend took a few more cracks at Lynn Hill Traverse (he’s super close).  We drifted toward the front so I could take a few cracks at Clune Crank and my nemesis, Stained Boulder Problem.  Boyfriend basically re-sent everything he tried, so it was a good day for him.  I sent nothing but tried to remain optimistic.

After a night spent freezing my butt off (note to self — bring a sleeping pad next time), we woke bright and early for a breakfast of oatmeal and bananas.  Check-out of the campsite is at 10 am, but the campground was nice enough to let us store our big packs in their toolshed while we went climbing.  Day 2 started with some practice runs at the welcome boulder — topping out is a skill I have yet to master, and I wanted to do a few safe practice runs.  Boyfriend sent Boulder of the Gods, a V0 highball, and I felt out the first moves of it.

Toward the top of Boulder of the Gods.

Toward the top of Boulder of the Gods.

Lovely fall light makes for a gorgeous top-out.

Lovely fall light makes for a gorgeous top-out.

After warming up, I tried my hand at Stained Boulder Problem yet again.  I’ve been able to get the tricky start, and the right hand pop-up, and this time I managed to get into top-out position.  Unfortunately, holding onto anything in the gunks is like grabbing chunks of broken glass, so after struggling both my hands over the lip, my skin and muscles couldn’t take it anymore, and I fell off.  Curse you, Stained Boulder Problem!  I’ll send you yet!  Boyfriend did a quick run of Lazy Mazie (V2) before we started down the carriage road.

We re-tried a bunch of things, with Boyfriend re-sending more, etc.  Boyfriend had a strong start on Dirty White Boys but fell a bit short tossing around the side for a hold.  We went back down to Boxcar to do some more work, and I tried Blasted Rock and Unnamed BP #3 again.  Blasted Rock went (finally), but I fell off another top out on UBP#3 (dang it).  Boyfriend went hard on Boxcar Arete (V8), and I think he’ll get it the next time he comes!  He finished up at Andrew’s Boulder (which, unlike Day 1, was a boulder party on Day 2) re-sent the Buddha and Andrew’s Problem while I chilled, skin and muscles completely dead.

Boyfriend working hard on Dirty White Boys.

Boyfriend working hard on Dirty White Boys.

We hiked back down to our campsite, picked up our packs, and got a ride back into town.  Traffic was insane, but even though time-wise it took a lot longer, the cab was still only $12.  Our driver was a super nice lady who told us all about her granddaughter who is getting interested in climbing.  She also took us on a detour down through historic New Paltz, where we got to see some of the original stone houses.  It was a nice little tour, particularly since we usually blow through Main Street on our one day bouldering trips.  We stopped at Lemongrass to get a Thai victory dinner before catching the bus back to NYC.

All in all, it was a really great trip.  The Gunks has such a wealth of problems, and even though it’s not exactly beginner-friendly, the difficulty and sharp holds certainly makes bouldering other places seem easier, ha ha.